All summer, ever since the end of Calvary’s 150th anniversary weekend at the beginning of June, there has been something new….something new just out of reach, not visible, not clearly felt, not yet arrived…but there and clear enough to hold my attention now for a couple of months. And the only framework my conscious mind seems to have with which to understand that feeling is through a story I heard told by John Bell at a recent conference. I know that I won’t get the details right, but that is how it goes when you repeat a story…you repeat it through the lens that has meaning for you.
It seems that on one occasion Rev. Bell was doing yet another workshop in a dying church in Edinburgh. His mission was, as always, to help even the smallest most desperate church understand that they could worship through song and worship with vitality…no matter their size, no matter their resources. And so he worked with the small congregation, teaching them some of the wonderful songs he carries through the world, songs of Africa, songs of Latin America, songs of Asia, songs of faith. This was another church that felt they were dying…no new members, just fewer and fewer of the faithful, fewer and fewer people to keep the lights on and the flame burning. They thought of themselves as a failing church; they were known in their town as a failing church.
Nothing really out of the ordinary occurred during the workshop, but the little church kept singing long after he was gone. They liked the songs, they liked the feeling of authentic worship that he had introduced to them. And then one day, two ladies of the congregation were shopping in a local shop. They had just come from some event at church, where they had been singing songs, and they saw behind the counter a young man from Africa. After striking up a conversation about how he came to be in Edinburgh, one of the ladies said: “You should come to our church…we sing songs from your country.”
And the young man came. And then he told other people. And more people came. And, over time, the little dying church that learned to sing the songs of the world became known as that lively church where they sang and worshipped with joy.
The people of this church created a new rumor about their community. They said no to the rumor that they were dying; they created a rumor of life, and it was so.
Usually, I would tell you this story to illustrate the power of music in worship, or the power of musical expression in general, but that’s not the reason today. You see, I realize that I am deep in the process of creating a new rumor about myself and my life and my calling. These past months, even the smallest decision, the seemingly most mundane, has taken on an importance I have never experienced — all because I am aware that I am creating something. For the first time in my life, I undersand the respect that this creation process deserves.
And so, I have turned down singing invitations, familiar vacations, and so much more this summer to stay local and to prepare…it has been a summer devoted to cleaning out closets and bookshelves and my spirit. Much of it has been very, very uncomfortable. Much of it has been emotional, difficult. But all of it has and is vibrant with life and awareness…the awareness of creation and, well, the excitement of a new rumor.
In the past, I would have just thrown everything out. Now, I have things and people in my life that I value, that represent important parts of my Self and my reason for being. Creating a new rumor at this time means holding on to what is dear and genuine and adding the new that is to come. I am simultaneously enlivened and apprehensive, but I know that I stand on solid ground.
And as part of that new rumor, I am beginning a second blog….Sevierly Baptist. I wanted a place to write that is devoted solely to this new adventure and this beginning of this new rumor. I am, at last, going to complete a seminary education. So, while you will continue to hear about my world of music and faith at this address, you can read about my academic adventures and just what it is like to be a Baptist attending an Episcopal seminary at the new location.
I hope you will stay tuned. I hope that you will hold with me the excitement that a new rumor can bring. And I am grateful for all of you out there who have participated and will continue to participate in this act of creation.